THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS FOR CELLO AND PIANO op.629 (September 2011)

Concert piece transcribed from the work for basset clarinet and piano
Published by: Highbridge Music
Duration: 8:5
First Performance: SWDR recording January 29th 2014 Kaiserslautern for release on Genuin - cellist Benedict Kloeckner, pianist Howard Blake

Recordings Available
Genuin CD album release for autumn 2014. Thecello works of Howard Blake played by the composer (piano) with Benedict Kloeckner (cello)

Notes

'The goddess Athena invents the Aulos and plays it at banquets of the gods.  Finding it distorts her features she discards it and pronounces a curse against whoever picks it up. The satyr Marsyas comes upon it and wins such esteem that the the lyre-playing Apollo is furious and challenges him to a duel. Despite his wonderful playing Marsyas is tricked and tragically condemned to the underworld; but he sets himself the task of creating an instrument of such range and beauty that he can re-challenge Apollo and triumph. He mounts the steps of Olympus, plays brillliantly and seductively and Venus is enchanted.'

Performances

24th April 2015 Benedict Kloeckner, cello and Hoeward Blake, piano, Genuin records/SWR

[DIVERSIONS (cello and piano)] [ARCHANGELS' LULLABY (for cello and piano)] [PENNILLION (for Cello and Piano)] [CELLO SONATA] [WALKING IN THE AIR FOR CELLO & PIANO] [THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS FOR CELLO AND PIANO]

by Greg Applegate in Gapplegate 24/4/2015

Howard Blake, Diversions, Benedict Kloeckner

An English composer with a pronounced lyrical gift, Howard Blake (b. 1938) is perhaps best known for his soundtrack to the feature cartoon, "The Snowman," which has a hauntingly beautiful refrain "Walking in the Air" for boy soprano and orchestra. He has a body of more "serious" works though, and we can hear some of how that sounds on a new recording featuring works for cello and piano, Diversions (SWR2/Genuin 15346). Benedict Kloeckner takes on the cello role for these works and sounds terrific. Howard Blake himself handles the piano part with dramatic credibility.

These are modern lyric pieces that show us Blake the gritty but mellifluous contemporary composer in a series of six compositions, all but one enjoying world premier recordings in the versions presented. This is music of a pronounced tonality but without anything in the way of a neo-classical glance at the past. He may certainly have something of the romantic in him, but like Samuel Barber it is so individual that you don't find yourself saying, "yes, that is Brahmsian...that is Mendelssohnian, etc." The works hold their own as contemporary music with a pronounced Blakean signature affixed. There is nothing banally "new age" sounding to them either. The music is filled with inventive flourishes that evince a fertile creative mind at work.

The piano parts occasionally step into the spotlight but mostly this is music that gives the cellist a chance to take a singing melodic lead. Kloeckner responds with an extraordinarily vibrant tone and rhapsodic lucidity.

There is nothing in the way of filler. Each work has something to say. We get a touching rendition of "Walking in the Air" that reminds us how well-constructed the deceptively straightforward song is. But then we get more complexly lyrical works in the title work "Diversions for Cello & Piano," in "Pennillion for Cello & Piano," the "Cello Sonata," and "The Enchantment of Venus." The program concludes with a short and very lovely "Archangel's Lullaby" and we are done.

This is music any classical Anglophile will appreciate. It has an accessibility that will appeal to a large audience, potentially. And it is rousingly good music. It is not high modernist but it is thoroughly contemporary. It has a special quality to it that belongs very much to the musical personality of Howard Blake.

Very much recommended.

17th April 2015 Benedict Kloeckner cello, Howard Blake piano, Milton Court, (London Barbican)
17th April 2015 Madeleine Mitchell (violin), Rivka Golani(viola), Benedict Kloeckner (cello), Sasha Grynyuk (piano), Milton Court, The Barbican, London Concert arranged by Lisa Peacock
13th April 2015 Benedict Kloeckner cello, Anna Fedorava piano, Uferhalle, Uferstrasse 8, Berlin

Works by Franck and Blake

25th March 2015 Benedict Kloeckner cello, Sasha Grynyuk piano, Bob Boas concert room, 22 Mansfield Street, W1, 7.30

A concert to celebrate the release of 'Diversions' an album of Howard Blake's music for cello and piano - Benedict Kloeckner cello and the composer as pianist  - Genuin label, recorded by SWDR Germany

Howard is unable to play having unfortuately sufferred a broken wrist. He will however be present to act as mediator.

25th March 2014 Howard Blake music for cello and piano, Bob Boas concert room, London

Reviews


Howard Blake, Diversions, Benedict Kloeckner

An English composer with a pronounced lyrical gift, Howard Blake (b. 1938) is perhaps best known for his soundtrack to the feature cartoon, "The Snowman," which has a hauntingly beautiful refrain "Walking in the Air" for boy soprano and orchestra. He has a body of more "serious" works though, and we can hear some of how that sounds on a new recording featuring works for cello and piano, Diversions (SWR2/Genuin 15346). Benedict Kloeckner takes on the cello role for these works and sounds terrific. Howard Blake himself handles the piano part with dramatic credibility.

These are modern lyric pieces that show us Blake the gritty but mellifluous contemporary composer in a series of six compositions, all but one enjoying world premier recordings in the versions presented. This is music of a pronounced tonality but without anything in the way of a neo-classical glance at the past. He may certainly have something of the romantic in him, but like Samuel Barber it is so individual that you don't find yourself saying, "yes, that is Brahmsian...that is Mendelssohnian, etc." The works hold their own as contemporary music with a pronounced Blakean signature affixed. There is nothing banally "new age" sounding to them either. The music is filled with inventive flourishes that evince a fertile creative mind at work.

The piano parts occasionally step into the spotlight but mostly this is music that gives the cellist a chance to take a singing melodic lead. Kloeckner responds with an extraordinarily vibrant tone and rhapsodic lucidity.

There is nothing in the way of filler. Each work has something to say. We get a touching rendition of "Walking in the Air" that reminds us how well-constructed the deceptively straightforward song is. But then we get more complexly lyrical works in the title work "Diversions for Cello & Piano," in "Pennillion for Cello & Piano," the "Cello Sonata," and "The Enchantment of Venus." The program concludes with a short and very lovely "Archangel's Lullaby" and we are done.

This is music any classical Anglophile will appreciate. It has an accessibility that will appeal to a large audience, potentially. And it is rousingly good music. It is not high modernist but it is thoroughly contemporary. It has a special quality to it that belongs very much to the musical personality of Howard Blake.

Very much recommended.

Greg Applegate, Gapplegate, 24/4/2015

Related Works


'THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS' op.566 (March 2006)
Concert Work (for basset clarinet and piano)
'THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS, CONCERTINA FOR BASSET-CLARINET AND STRING ORCHESTRA' op.566a (June 2011)
An arrangement for basset-clarinet and string orchestra of a work originally for basset-clarinet and piano
'THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS FOR DOUBLE-BASS' op.629b (June 2012)
A transcription of the work originally for basset-clarinet and piano
'THE ENCHANTMENT OF VENUS (for bass-clarinet and piano)' op.636 (January 2012)
an arrangement of the piece originally for basset-clarinet and piano

Related Autobiography Chapters


Vladimir Ashkenazy records the piano music for Decca (2013)
All-Howard Blake concert conducted by Sir Neville Marriner (2014)
'The Land of Counterpane' - an animated film with music (2015)

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